The Cat and the Moon

for soprano, treble recorder, violin and cello

Jeremy Pike

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for soprano, treble recorder, violin and cello

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Composer Jeremy Pike
Year of Composition 2018
Duration ca.4'

Instrumentation Recorder, Soprano, Violin, Violoncello
Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-jp2tcam1


This piece was specially commissioned for performance in the William Alwyn Festival 2018. It is a setting of a poem by W B Yeats, in which it may be argued that the poet sees himself as a cat, trying unsuccessfully to woo and entice the moon, which may represent Maud Gonne, the object of his attentions in so many of his poems. For the references to dance I have incorporated elements typical of an Irish jig (for the cat) as well obscure fragments of the more courtly waltz (for the moon). The jig, whose rhythm follows the first four lines of the poem, begins and ends the song as well as providing links between stanzas in the poem. It also symbolizes the seemingly irreconcilable differences between the cat and the moon, as the vocal line never quotes the jig theme directly, although there are subtle allusions to it at times. The imagery of gyres (for instance “spun round like a top”) as well as the moon’s changing phases are hinted at in the way some of the musical material spreads out from a single note or chord and back again, as well as in the work’s overall harmonic structure. Modal harmony is used to link the earthly jig theme with the allusions to the sacred nature of the moon. As the music progresses both the contrasts and the similarities between the protagonists are intensified through a greater exchange of material between the voice and the instrumental parts set against a heightened level of dissonance. Towards the end of the piece a return to the more consonant modal harmony of the opening portrays not only a sense of loneliness but also the inner strength of the poet.

Commissioned by the William Alwyn Festival. First performance: 4 October 2018 by Lesley-Jane Rogers (soprano), John Turner (recorder), Richard Simpson (oboe) and members of the Villiers Quartet, Blythburgh, Suffolk, in A Celebration for Sir John Manduell, given as part of the 2018 William Alwyn Festival.

Recording available from Divine Art DDA 25210, Songs for Sir John, released September 2020. Lesley-Jane Rogers (soprano), John Turner (recorder), Richard Simpson (oboe), Benedict Holland (violin) and Nicholas Trygstad (cello).